The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and Business NSW (BN) have appealed to their State Governments for changes to the isolation requirements of household close-contacts.
In both states, household contacts of a Covid-19 case must isolate for seven days before returning to their workplace.
But the VCCI and BN say these rules are having a detrimental effect on Australia’s two largest economies, and are proposing changes that would allow business to thrive, without sacrificing safety.
The business bodies argue that if household contacts take daily Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) before leaving their homes, and test negative, they should be allowed to “attend work as normal”.
“We need to release the handbrake and enable businesses to operate at the maximum capacity possible and lead our economic recovery,” says VCCI Chief Executive Paul Guerra.
Allowing staff who have tested negative, and feel well, to return to work, will ease the staffing difficulties that have plagued businesses under the current requirements, according to Mr Guerra.
“Access to staff continues to be a major issue for business and the current isolation requirements are making it difficult for them to provide service for customers and maximise their business opportunities.
“We are seeing other parts of the world moving ahead with revised requirements, and we can use that experience to our advantage.”
BN Chief Executive Daniel Hunter says Victoria and New South Wales’ high vaccination rates and clear capacity to live with Covid-19, mean businesses should be allowed to pursue economic recovery more freely.
“NSW and Victoria are Australia’s biggest economies and the current isolation rules are providing a barrier to businesses as healthy people are forced to isolate unnecessarily,” Mr Hunter says.
“With NSW airport workers currently having an exemption to the household contact rules, there is inconsistency and unfairness – this needs to be fixed so that all businesses can have fair access to workers in the current tight labour market and be open for business.
“Business needs certainty and we know that they are already struggling with supply chain issues and staff shortages. Let’s give them the opportunity they need to continue their recovery and let’s give it to them now.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, has indicated that changes will indeed be made to household contact requirements, declaring that Omicron cases have likely peaked in his state.
“The seven-day average, very pleasingly, is coming down. So that says to me that the peak has come and gone,” Andrews said at a press conference.
“We just have to wait and see that those few days of data turns into a trend that we hope it is.”
At the same event, Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley said “positive announcements” were coming soon.
“We’ll get down to very, very few rules very soon,” Foley said.
“That’s good for business, good for communities and fundamentally a reflection of the amazing thing Victorians have done.”
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet is also expected to scrap seven day isolation periods in the coming days.